Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council
Happy Spring! The TL;DR version of my weekly update, with details below:
- We had a packed agenda for this week’s City Council work session on Monday night; I also attended the Housing Commission meeting and a staff meeting on the City Hall renovation project later in the week. I had a number of citizen discussions to hear their thoughts about potential development projects, which I’m always happy to do and see neighborhoods engaged early.
- See below for the latest on:
- West Broad Area Plan
- W&OD Master Plan
- Promoting the Little City to prospective businesses
- Proposal for zoned residential parking
- City Hall renovations
- Another look at the budget schedule
- The City Manager presents the budget to us next Monday night, which marks the beginning of a busy 6 weeks ahead until the budget is adopted on April 25.
What Happened This Week?
City Council Work Session:
- West Broad Area Plan – we had a joint discussion with the Planning Commission on a revised concept map based on the past several weeks of feedback from the community and business owners. The intent of the planning document is to envision the kind of commercial development we want to encourage in the City, with activity nodes and general density and heights, without prescribing limits. Per the City Attorney, small area plans do no confer or change property rights, only zoning maps reflect legal property rights. We had a specific discussion on T-1 zones (transitional areas) and design features to protect and buffer neighborhoods which will be important as the commercial corridors of Broad St. are mostly adjacent to residential neighborhoods. This current version received more positive feedback from both groups than last. As currently scheduled, the West Broad Small Area Plan is up for a final adoption vote by City Council on March 28, with more opportunity for socialization and community input between now and then.
- Underground Parking – As a follow up to our February meeting, there was a specific discussion on the characteristics of development that have been able to support underground parking (better use of land, environment, aesthetics, etc vs surface or structured parking). In general, we need FAR (floor area ratios, a measure of density) >= 2.0, number of stories >= 5, and the parcel size >= 1.5 acres.
- Marketing the Little City – the Economic Development Office presented the presentation I previewed in the past few weeks of updates. See here and here. Efforts on multiple fronts (social media, media outreach, industry events, networking, etc) are ramping up to promote the Little City as a great place to do business. Go check out www.choosefallschurch.com, the new website for economic development. One interesting data point – did you know that we have a 92.5% office occupancy rate (quite high by industry standards)? It’s a common misconception that we have a lot of vacant commercial space, likely due to a few high profile vacancies. The EDO does a good job of supporting and connecting businesses who want to find space here with landlords. We all would like to see more high quality office space in Falls Church, and there is potential for an all office development project to be submitted at 400 N. Washington, as briefly reported during the Council meeting.
- W&OD Master Plan – we discussed the latest draft of the W&OD Master Plan, which is an underutilized asset in the City. The plan is an ambitious proposal to add and renovate trail plazas, raised crossings, separate pedestrian and bike trails, tree canopy, lighting, signage, and more amenities to really turn the W&OD into a great street. I think it would be a strategic investment – a nice hybrid project supporting transportation, green space, and encourage commerce – all of which is especially appealing when 80% of the project can be funded via grants. More work needs to be done on addressing citizen concerns about the proposed trail through Crossman Park and in general, I’d like to see more citizen outreach to residences that are adjacent to the trail to ensure they learn about the proposal. Expect to see it back on City Council’s agenda in April.
- Winter Hill Residential Parking Restrictions – a residential parking plan has been developed so that Winter Hill residents’ already constrained parking won’t be impacted in advance of the Harris Teeter/301 W. Broad project opening. The proposal would require a parking permit for street parking from 6 pm to 6 am, 7 days a week, with visitor passes available. The plan should mitigate concerns that 301 W. Broad visitors and residents will choose to use Winter Hill street parking after hours in lieu of the garage. This zoned parking plan sets an important precedent in protecting residential neighborhoods as more development occurs across Falls Church. The first reading of the ordinance is scheduled for a vote at next week’s Council meeting, March 14.
- As it was nearly 11 pm, we then closed out the meeting with brief discussions on the City Council Work Plan (draft output from our retreat in February) and updated Principles of Conduct and Rules of Procedure by the City Attorney.
City Hall Public Safety Renovations Project – if you haven’t heard about the plans to renovate and expand City Hall, this is a good resource. The TL;DR version is that it’s a multi-year, multi-phased effort for the 1957 building, largely to address public security concerns for the court and police, accessibility, maintenance, future needs, a unifying front entrance, and a secured garage for police use and to increase parking in the City Hall/library area. The funds for the project have been appropriated in previous budget cycles, totaling about $17 MM, with $1 MM already spent on the most critical renovations. It is currently in the procurement phase for architect and design development, with design to occur through 2016; construction would begin in 2017. I would love to hear more community input on this project, especially as we talk about the budget and other capital needs.
What’s Coming Up:
Next Week’s Council Meeting – besides the Winter Hill parking plan mentioned above, the main topics will be Miller House and the City Manager’s presentation on FY17 Budget and CIP. We are also scheduled to go into closed session with the School Board to discuss the GMHS campus project.
I’m posting the budget schedule below again, as I’ve received a few questions when the public can provide comment. All of the items in bold are public hearings where you can speak to Council; town halls are another great forum for dialogue on the budget. You can always email us either individually or via the City Clerk, and those comments are included in the official record.
- City Manager Presents Budget and CIP at City Council Regular Meeting
- March 14, 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Council Chambers, City Hall
- Town Hall Meeting: Open House on Budget and CIP
- March 19, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM @ Teen Center, Community Center
- Budget Discussion at City Council Work Session
- March 21, 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Dogwood Room, City Hall
- Public Hearing #1 at City Council Regular Meeting
- March 28, 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Council Chambers, City Hall
- Budget Discussion at City Council Work Session
- April 4, 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Dogwood Room, City Hall
- Town Hall Meeting #2
- April 9, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM @ Teen Center, Community Center
- Public Hearing #2 at City Council Regular Meeting
- April 11, 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Council Chambers, City Hall
- Budget Discussion at City Council Work Sesssion
- April 18, 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Dogwood Room, City Hall
- Public Hearing #3 and Adoption at City Council Regular Meeting
- April 25, 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Council Chambers, City Hall